On Harry’s 39th birthday I was reflecting on all the amazing things and people that are part of my life that I wouldn’t have had without the Harry Potter fandom. My darling friend Mary Feliz perked up and wanted to know more, so here’s a brief overview of some of the real-life groups that Harry Potter has given the world.
The Potterhead Running Club, or PHRC, is one of a collection of running groups that combine fandom, exercise, and charity into one magical organization. If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, there’s also a Gilmore Girls version, a Doctor Who branch, and a general fandom-for-all group.
Each virtual run that the PHRC puts on has a charity partner that the medals & merch raise funds for. There are also Direct Impact Projects, where the Hogwarts houses (of course) compete to raise the most funds or items for a specific project (once it was cute bandaids for kids). House points are awarded by our Headmaster and at the end of the year one house wins the house cup and bragging rights.
Each house has a Common Room Facebook group and, if the others are anything like Ravenclaw Tower, there’s a lot more going on than just running. Every subject is fair game from book recs to riddle contests. And if you’re not a runner? That’s okay too! Walking or biking or running really slowly (hello from Team Turgle–turtle/eagle) or just hanging out and providing moral support is all encouraged. The unifying feature isn’t running, it’s the uplifting the global community both inside PHRC and out.
I’ve talked about the Harry Potter Alliance before. Based on the belief that fandom and popular culture are powerful forces for good, the HPA “turns fans into heroes.” They ran a campaign to force the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to ethically source their chocolate, have opened numerous libraries all over the world, and created the Granger Leadership Academy, which will absolutely be up next on this list.
The HPA has resources for fans who want to be activists but aren’t sure where to start. Many studies show that people who like Harry Potter are more likely to be empathetic and socially conscious, and the HPA gives them a place to start in making a difference in the world.
The Granger Leadership Academy is a conference for people of all ages and genders to come together and learn about fighting injustice. Like the HPA, but condensed into one weekend, the GLA lifts up marginalized voices and provides training on everything from avoiding burnout to how to find your place in activism at all. I’ve never been, but Tonks and the Aurors are usually there and to be honest, I want to be wherever they are at any given point.
Transfiguring Adoption was a new one for me last year, but their goal is pretty awesome. Foster and adoptive parents are often ill-equipped to deal with the traumas that kids in the foster system have experienced, so TA is coming to the rescue with resources for the adults to take care of themselves as well as bond with and better understand the kids. Like all the other groups on this list, TA understands the power of fandom to bring people together, and uses it to point foster families in the right direction, together.
Okay, so they’re not exclusively Harry Potter, but this nerd gym in California does have Harry Potter classes. It also follows the real-world Harry Potter rules of inclusivity and fandom engagement, so we’re counting it. If you can’t reach Hollywood on the regular to join a gym, there are no shortage of HP-based workouts you can find on google. Or, like me, you can join a private, friends based Harry Potter workout group. Or start one! Harry was a jock who was captain of his sports team–he makes a great motivator.
This list just barely scratches the surface of what Harry has achieved in the real world. It doesn’t even begin to touch on the conventions, businesses, and entire genre of music that sprang up around a shared love of the Boy Who Lived.
Not too shabby for a fictional character who just turned 39 this year.
Are you a Harry Potter fan? Do you belong to or support an organization I didn’t mention here? Let me know!